Israel risks losing international support if it mounts a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip to stop rocket attacks from Hamas militants, U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague said.
A ground incursion would make it harder to limit civilian casualties and prolong the current conflict, Hague told Sky News television today.
He said he and Prime Minister David Cameron “have both stressed to our Israeli counterparts that a ground invasion of Gaza would lose Israel a lot of the international support and sympathy they have in this situation.”
Israel said today it was prepared to “significantly widen” its assault on the Gaza Strip as rocket attacks on its cities continued for a fifth day. Regional leaders are racing to broker an accord to end a conflict that has killed 52 Palestinians and three Israelis.
Hague said Hamas bears “principal responsibility” for sparking the conflict in Gaza and called for “an agreed cease-fire, an essential component of which is an end to those rocket attacks.” Britain is “gravely concerned” about the situation, he said.
He accused Iran of fueling the conflict by supplying weapons to Hamas militants. “Iran is a country which we all suspect is a prime mover behind that, a supplier of such weaponry,” he said. “There is Iranian involvement. That’s why we have to keep the wider picture in mind. It’s part of bigger picture which is necessary to resolve.”
Hague also cautioned the Palestinian Authority against pursuing its “divisive” bid to gain statehood recognition at the United Nations. The U.S. opposes the move and Israel has warned of retaliatory steps.
“We really need the United States to show the strong leadership on the peace process that alone in the world can really bring these parties together into new negotiations, and it would be a mistake to do things that make it harder to do that,” Hague said.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is seeking to upgrade Palestinian diplomatic status at the UN later this month to “non-member observer state” in the 193-member General Assembly. Abbas failed last year to secure approval in the 15-member Security Council for recognition of Palestinian statehood after opposition from the U.S.
Israeli leaders say the Palestinian bid is a unilateral step to obtain statehood without negotiating, and will be used to try and isolate Israel diplomatically. Peace talks between the sides broke down in 2010 after Israel refused a Palestinian demand to extend a freeze on construction in its West Bank settlements.